Received Date: December 20, 2011; Accepted Date: April 16, 2012; Published Date: April 19, 2012
Citation: de Oliveira CJF Jr, Cabreira PP, Begossi A (2012) The Dilemma of Plant Knowledge and Compensation for Native People Living in Brazilian Biomes. J Ecosyst Ecogr 2:108. doi:10.4172/2157-7625.1000108
Copyright: © 2012 de Oliveira CJF Jr, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and and source are credited.
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Background: Biological diversity is considered a key element for well-being and for a sustainable world. Although only a small portion of the world´s biological diversity has been studied, its capacity to generate socioeconomic benefits has been recognised everywhere. Local knowledge is a useful resource for the development of medicinal drugs and other substances. For this reason, the rights to areas with high biodiversity have been an area of debate and of legislative initiatives by the Brazilian government.
Methods: A bibliographic review was performed concerning scientific papers and gray literature. The data were organised into scientific and folk names, botanical family, economic use, part used, community, municipality, state, region, biome and others. The categories considered here were food, medicine, manufacturing, construction, energy, rituals, and ornamentation. A consensus value was calculated based on the agreement among the responses of the respondents.
Results: In this paper, we describe a method that could yield viable returns from the use of local knowledge to local populations by showing that plant knowledge and its use by local people in high-biodiversity areas are more local than diffused. We found that the plants used are not only different in each biome but, more importantly, that most of the knowledge of uses comes from different communities. A total of 195 plant families were cited in the 45 studies, including 2,058 species cited as used by local populations. The main families cited were Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Fabaceae, Myrtaceae and Euphorbiaceae.
Conclusions: This study identified many species used by local populations. That many of these species have a ‘rare’ use (used by a few communities) makes property rights returns more feasible. The necessity of sharing the benefits of this biodiversity with native populations must be addressed in the environmental politics of Brazil, and the sharing of benefits is a solution that would help create a better integration between native populations and scientific endeavours.
Biological diversity is considered a key element for well-being and for a sustainable world. Although only a small portion of the world´s biological diversity has been studied, its capacity to generate socioeconomic benefits has been recognised everywhere .
High-biodiversity areas often encompass native populations who extract resources from the environment. Examples of such populations in Brazil are the inhabitants of the coastal areas of the Atlantic Forest (the Caiçaras) and of the riverine environments of the Amazon (the Caboclos). These people have a detailed knowledge of aquatic and terrestrial resources . Native populations usually exhibit a wide knowledge of plant uses [3-6], including extraction of plants for medicinal uses. This medicinal knowledge is often retained by only a few groups or people. Elders and women are commonly the main groups retaining such knowledge [7,8].
Local knowledge is a useful resource for the development of medicinal drugs and other substances. For this reason, the rights to areas with high biodiversity have been an area of debate and of legislative initiatives by the Brazilian government, which has led to conflicts with scientists who encounter obstacles to developing research projects regarding the natural resources of the country. Representative cases of researchers being accused of and condemned for biopiracy (9) have astonished the academy. On October 29, 2010, delegations of 193 countries met in Nagoya, Japan, at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). These delegates developed a protocol regarding the sharing of genetic biodiversity resources (ABS) . The ruling that Natura, a cosmetics producer, pay 21 million reais to Ibama (the Brazilian governmental environmental agency) is an example of the attention given to this topic . In addition to companies interested in finding medicines, the bureaucracy and obstacles to conducting research on biodiversity have reopened a discussion on the conflict between researchers and the government in Brazil, which now leads the 17 mega diverse countries .
Faced with this situation and the need to give property rights to native populations, various initiatives have been implemented, including several that date back to the WSSD meeting, such as the Indigenous People’s Plan of Implementation on Sustainable Development (www.tebtebba.org) and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement, among others .
In this study we show results that could yield viable returns from the use of local knowledge to local populations by showing that plant knowledge and its use by local people in high-biodiversity areas are more local than diffused. We found that the plants used are not only different in each biome but, more importantly, that most of the knowledge of uses comes from different communities. We analysed 45 studies conducted in Brazil, with 12,050 units of data on plant use (ethnoknowledge) cited in 51 communities that use those plants for various things, including food, medicine, construction, handicrafts, and ornaments. Through this method, a compensatory mechanism could be built to provide returns to local populations and to source countries.
Data collection - a bibliographic review was performed concerning scientific papers and gray literature (theses, monographs, reports). Tools such as SciELO (http://www.scielo.br/) and Web of Science (http://science.thomson-reuters.com/pt/produtos/wos/) were searched using the key words etnobotânica, conhecimento tradicional, recursos vegetais, plantas úteis, populações tradicionais ou locais, biomas and uso economic (ethnobotany, traditional knowledge, plant resources, useful plants, local or traditional communities, biomes and economic use.). The data were organised into database with SQL language, with the following fields: scientific and folk names, botanical family, subfamily, economic use, receipt of use, medicinal indication, part used, geographic occurrence, community, municipality, state, region and biome (this last item being the unit of reference of this study). The categories considered here were food, medicine, manufacturing, construction, energy, rituals, and ornamentation. The scientific names were revised using the ‘Guia Ilustrativo das Famílias de Angiospermas da Flora Brasileira: based on APGII’ , Flora Brasiliensis (http:// florabrasiliensis.cria.org.br/), Kew Garden (http://www.kew.org/) and Index Kewensis (http://www.ipni.org/ik_blurb.html).
Data analysis - the informant consensus is based on the correlation between people’s responses were collected through individual interviews, [15,16] a high consensus among informants indicates that a plant is well known within the community, and consequently, its widespread use. A consensus value was calculated based on the agreement among the responses of the respondents (communities). The data collected in this study refer to 51 communities in Brazil, each community was considered an informant/respondents.
A total of 195 plant families were cited in the 45 studies, including 2,058 species cited as used by local populations. The main families cited were Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Fabaceae, Myrtaceae and Euphorbiaceae. The database constructed in this study allows observation of the knowledge of plant species used on the local population level and on the biome level (Figures 1 and 2). It was observed that the five most cited species from each biome are exclusive to that biome. Examples are Hymenaea parvifolia in the Amazon, Bauhinia cheilanta in the Caatinga, Bacharis trimera in the Cerrado (savannah), Psidium guajava in the Atlantic Forest, and Eugenia uniflora in the Restinga.
In Figure 1 we observe the species that were more cited in the interviews in the communities studied. Citations refer to the different uses per species, such as food, medicinal (among others). The most cited species are Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf. (114 citations), Psidium guajava L. (110 citations), Chenopodium ambrosioides L. (103 citations), Baccharis trimera (99 citations) and Bidens pilosa L. (88 citations). There are species with multiple uses such as from the genus Baccharis (food and medicine). B. trimera (Asteraceae) is locally known as ‘carqueja’, a native species including 104 citations for medicinal uses; Cymbopogon citratus is locally known as ‘capimsanto or capim-limão’. It is a species largely used in folk medicine for stomach aches, sedative, hipertension. It occurs in the Atlantic Forest, Restinga, Cerrado and in Caatinga. Psydium guajava, a species occurring in Cerrado, Caatinga, Mata Atlântica and Restinga, also showed multiple uses, such as medicine, food, construction, ornament, and energy (wood burning). Chenopodium ambrosioides (‘erva-desanta- maria, matruz or mastruço’) is exotic, from México; it has a wide distribution in Brazil. C. ambrosioides is largerly used in folk medicine as Anthelmintic, for stomach aches, as a digestive, for osteoporosis, and analgesic. It is a species cultivated in the backyards of the communities, such as Conceição-Açu (Mato Grosso State), Limeira e Ribeirão Grande (Paraná State) e Martim de Sá (Rio de Janeiro State). Locally called ‘picão preto’, the species Bidens pilosa is used especially in folk medicine for hurts, insect bites, anemia, hepatytis, anti-inflammtory and malaria in the State of Rondônia (Amazon). It is distributed in the Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, Restinga and Caatinga.
Brazil is a megadiverse country, and that diversity is based on its territorial location and size (8.547.403 km2), ranging over latitudes 5°16’N – 33°45’S and encompassing a variety of soils and microclimates that give rise to different biomes and ecosystems. The huge Amazon forest is conspicuous, and due to a wide network of rivers, it is possible to observe distinct ecosystems. These ecosystems include highland forests, the igapó forests (permanently flooded forests), and the várzea (riverine areas that are temporarily flooded) . There is a type of savannah here called the Caatinga, which in the Tupi-Guarani language means ‘white-forest’ because it loses its leaves in the dry season. The Caatinga has a high endemism of species; after the rains, it turns to different shades of green [18,19]. The Cerrado is the second most extensive Brazilian biome (the first is the Amazon forest) but is considered to be extremely fragile as far as its protection is concerned because it is highly fragmented . Cerrado occurs in sandy areas with acid soils; it has a low fertility and exhibits species adapted to low water and nutrient conditions. The Atlantic Forest is highly productive due to the high humidity from the Atlantic Ocean. This forest is one of Brazil’s main hot-spots and is considered the second most threatened ecosystem in the world . Finally, the Restinga is an ecosystem linked to the Atlantic Forest and is located along the littoral line in sandy areas. The Restinga is influenced by winds and by the relatively high salinity of the area, and it contains plant species adapted to these conditions .
The three plant families most representative of each of the biomes are as follows: Amazon – Sapotaceae, Chrysobalanaceae and Lecythidaceae; Caatinga – Euphorbiaceae, Mimosaceae and Fabaceae; Cerrado – Asteraceae, Fabaceae and Lamiaceae; Atlantic Forest – Myrtaceae, Asteraceae and Lamiaceae; and Restinga – Myrtaceae, and Anacardiaceae and Lamiaceae.
In Figura 2, we observe the most mentioned species per biome as well as the differences among them. This difference is due to the distribution of species (climatic conditions, soils, endemism) and possibly to cultural locally associated factors.
In the Atlantic Forest (Table 1), more than 350 species were cited as used for food, 107 for handicrafts, and 237 for construction (houses, canoes). In the Amazon, 66 species were used for construction. In the Caatinga, 84 species were used for construction and 37 for ornamental purposes. Plants used in rituals are relatively important in the Atlantic Forest (64 uses).
Table 1: Number of species of plants cited per biome or per ecosystem.
The food species for each biome are as follows: goiaba (Psidium guajava) in the Atlantic Forest, araçá (Psidium cattleianum) in the Restinga, louro-branco (Cordia glabrata) in the Cerrado, mororó (Bauhinia cheilantha) in the Caatinga, and açaí (Euterpe oleracea) in the Amazon. The açaí is a highly productive palm, and açaí juice is obtained from its fruit. This food is rich in anthocyanins, which are known for their pharmacological and medicinal properties, including anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects .
Among the species used in manufacturing, we found Tabebuia cassinoides (Lam.) A.P. DC. (caxeta), used in the Atlantic Forest; Achyrocline satureoides (marcela), used in the Restinga; Nectandra megapotamica (canela-preta) used in the Cerrado; and Licania heteromorpha (caripé), used in the Amazon. The species most frequently used in each of the biomes are exclusive to that biome, being scarce in the other biomes (Figure 2). Moreover, many species are used by a few communities, such as the examples that follow:
Ampelozizphus amazonicus (Ducke) is used medicinally to treat malaria in Boa Vista, Roraima ; Androtrichum trigynum (Spreng) H. Pfeiff. is used for manufacturing carpets and mats in the Restinga community of Pântano do Sul, Florianópolis ; Chlorophora tinctoria Gaudich is used to treat sexually transmitted infections in the indigenous communities of Guajajaras and Awa, Maranhão State ; Melocactus zehntneri (Britton & Rose) Lutzelb is used as food by rural Caatinga communities in Pernambuco ; Menora nodosa Miers is used for the treatment of scabs in the community of Alto Paraíso de Goiás ; Pachira aquática (Aubl) is used as food in the coast of Pernambuco ; Fumaria officinalis L. is used as a hepatoprotector by communities that live in the surroundings of the National Park da Serra do Itajaí ; Forsteronia leptocarpa (Hook & Arn.) A. DC is used as food in the community of Pantano do Sul ; in this same community, Eupatorium casarettoi (B.L.Rob.) Steyerm is used to prevent insect bites ; Crocus sativus is applied around the eyes in the case of measles in the community that lives in the Ecological Station of Jataí ; Clavija nutans (Vell.) B. Stahl is used for kidney treatments by woodsmen in the municipality of Dourados-MS ; and Ceiba speciosa is used as food by the population of Ingaí, Minas Gerais State .
A Consensus value (Figure 3) was calculated based on the results (from data obtained). It shows a low value, that means that folk knowledge is much localized and with a low diffusion. For example, 63% of folk knowledge based upon the citations of plants used shows a consensus value of 1, whereas only 1% shows a consensus value upper than 20. Therefore, folk knowledge (ethnobotany) is restricted to a few communities and regions, which opens the possibility to located beneficiaries and to share the benefits obtained from the commercial and other returns coming from medicinal uses (among others). Species with high consensus value are a small portion, representing species with general uses.
Figure 3: Folk knowledge: plant species with the same use. There are many plants with multiple uses, such as Schinus terebinthifolius, which is used for construction, handicrafts, food, energy, medicine, and rituals; and Eugenia uniflora or Euterpe edulis which are used for food, construction, medicine, and handicrafts. Each use represents folk knowledge, and thus, each species can be linked too much plant folk knowledge (or ethnoknowledge, or local knowledge). This figure shows that a high consensus value indicates low diversity of folk knowledge, whereas a low consensus value indicates high diversity of folk knowledge (different communities citing different plant species as used).
This study identified many species used by local populations. That many of these species have a ‘rare’ use (used by a few communities) makes property rights returns more feasible. The necessity of sharing the benefits of this biodiversity with native populations must be addressed in the environmental politics of Brazil, and the sharing of benefits is a solution that would help create a better integration between native populations and scientific endeavours, for example, the development of new drugs. This solution could also make it easier for researchers to conduct science research in Brazil. This study shows that a few uses are diffuse: folk knowledge with high consensus value represents less than 5% of the data. Most uses of plants occur in one community, maybe two (Figure 3), and most plants cited as used in the communities have low consensus value; the lower the consensus value, the higher the diversity of knowledge shown concerning plant uses. One explanation for this phenomenon is the existence of a relationship between high biological diversity and high cultural diversity. Considering our results, we could determine areas where payments for environmental services are feasible. The following suggestions can be completed using similar databases:
(A) - The possibility of tracing back the source of uses and locating the communities that should receive benefits based on plant citations as used per community.
(B) - Benefits could be through payments for environmental services (PES). Services here are translated as knowledge that a local community has, which can be embodied in programs for the research and development of new products. The service is knowledge, and the buyer is the government or a company interested in that knowledge.
(C)- Based on the data, diversity indices can be calculated per community and per biome based on plant uses , and areas of use can be determined (for protection and uses).
One of the authors is thankful to FAPESP (grant # 2009/11154-3) and to CNPq (productivity scholarship). PCC is thankful to CNPq (PIBIC scholarship).
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